The Enlightenment of the Body: The Theory and Practice of Winds and Channels Yoga at Namdroling Monastery and Nunnery in South India

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Worth, Naomi, Religious Studies - Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, University of Virginia
Germano, David, Religious Studies, University of Virginia
Schaeffer, Kurtis, Religious Studies, University of Virginia
Heller, Natasha, Religious Studies, University of Virginia
Coan, James, Psychology, University of Virginia

This dissertation documents the practice of winds, channels, and inner heat (rtsa rlung gtum mo) at Namdroling Tibetan Buddhist monastery and nunnery in Bylakuppe, Karnataka, India. The study was prompted by several questions. First, how does the Great Perfection (rdzogs chen) tradition of Tibetan Buddhism present the body and embodiment in practices involving physical yoga postures? Second, does Great Perfection philosophy of the mind-body connection explain how physical yoga practices work? And third, how do Great Perfection views of the body impact contemporary practitioners? These questions were explored using both ethnography and textual analysis during fieldwork in 2018 and 2019.

The monks and nuns at Namdroling discussed the Tibetan Yoga practice of winds, channels, and inner heat and its associated philosophy of the vajra body in formal discourses, interviews, and one-on-one classes. In turn, they posed questions about how traditional Tibetan Buddhist representations of the body fit with modern scientific views. This sparked an intercontinental conversation brokered by the author about Great Perfection philosophy and contemporary philosophy of mind.

Two texts provide information on practice and philosophy. Migyur Dorje and Karma Chakme's Sky Dharma (gNam chos) contemplative trilogy guides practitioners on how to practice inner heat (gtum mo) and postures ('phrul 'khor). Information on Sky Dharma was gathered from oral teachings, the texts themselves, and translations by Namdroling monastics. The second textual basis is Longchen Rabjam's (kLong chen rab 'byams, 1308-1364) encyclopedic Treasury of the Supreme Vehicle (Theg mchog mdzod), which provided greater detail on mind-body philosophy through the vajra body (rdo rje lus) paradigm. An examination of the life of literature on a monastic campus is brought to light.

The culmination of this research unfolds in the final chapter, an analysis of the relationship between theory and praxis. In particular, Longchenpa's text defines limits for the female body so that women cannot achieve the highest results from winds and channels practices. This controversy invites an examination of the lives of contemporary nuns.

PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
Tibetan Yoga, Buddhist modernism, vajra body, subtle body, mind-body philosophy, embodiment, modern postural yoga, Tibetan Buddhist monasticism, Tibetan Buddhism in India, Buddhism and science, theory and praxis, winds, channels, and inner heat, winds, channels, and vital essences
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